“I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit,” Taylor Swift softly declared at the outset of “Folklore,” and truer sentiments are never constantly spoken than in the case of the woman who somehow manages to the best and most prolific songwriter in pop. Consider that, just since the last time she went on tour, Swift has released six albums, four of which were all-new, two of which dug into her vaults and proved she’s even more of a constant song fount than we knew. New shit is her brand — maybe her compulsion, too — and definitely our pleasure.
So sometimes it takes a special occasion to tear yourself away from the chronic relistenability of a “Midnights” to ask yourself: What do “Speak Now,” “1989,” “Reputation,” et al. have to say to me today? Fortunately, we have such an occasion — Swift’s birthday, as the star turns 33 on Dec. 13. It’s a good, celebratory time to try to pull out a best songs list. Sure, it would have been appropriate and maybe even lucky to come up with a 13-song list, or even 33 songs, in honor of her spot on the mortal odometer. But given her catalog of 225-plus songs, even cutting a best list down to 50 is a tough task, so that ended up being where we drew the line.
If your favorite Swift song is missing from this highly subjective, critical 50-best list, rest assured that it’s probably in our unspoken 51st or 52nd slot. And know that on any given day, the winds might have blown differently and we might even have put “Shake It Off” or “Love Story” on the list. For now, there were just too many brilliant deep cuts to consider to let all the bigger hits hog the top ranks of the canon. And having just named “Midnights” the album of the year, I didn’t think it was too soon to push some cuts from that record onto this “Eras”-spanning list. Are you ready for it? (Boom, boom, boom.)